The United States has concluded that Al Qaida and its allies are taking over the Sunni insurgency war in Iraq.
U.S. officials said Central Command officers in Iraq have seen
increasing evidence of Al Qaida and Islamic volunteer forces participating
and even leading the insurgency war in the Sunni Triangle. They said Al
Qaida has succeeded in presenting Iraq as the next arena for what the
movement terms the Islamic holy war against the United States.
"Foreign terrorists are attracted to areas where the coalition is on
the offense in the global war on terror, and in Iraq we
are on the offense in the global war on terror," Defense Department acting
spokesman Lawrence Di Rita said. "There's clearly an indication that foreign
terrorists are involved in the kind of violence that we see here."
[On Monday, an Al Qaida spokesman said in a tape broadcast on the
Dubai-based Al Arabiya television that Osama Bin Laden and Taliban chief
Mullah Omar were alive, Middle East Newsline reported. The spokesman, identified as Abdul Rahman Al Najdi,
reiterated a call to Muslims to fight U.S. troops in Iraq.]
Officials said the methods of Al Qaida differ from those of loyalists to
deposed Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. They said the Al Qaida insurgents
favor truck and roadside bombs rather than engaging U.S. troops with
mortars, rocket-propelled grenades or small arms fire.
"I think we clearly are adapting as, as you understand, that what began
as attacks that were primarily small-arms based evolved into mortars and
then rocket-propelled grenades, and now increasingly is through the use of
improvised explosive devices," Lt. Gen. Norton Schwartz, director of
operations for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said. "We will adapt to that
reality and appropriately provide for force protection for our forces while
we engage the perpetrators, both during an event but, more importantly, to
engage them prior to an act of violence against our forces."
Officials and analysts have asserted that Al Qaida and aligned groups
will increase their involvement in Iraq. They cite the re-entry of Al
Qaida-sponsored groups such as Ansar Islam and Abu Musab Al Zarqawi, both of
whom were active in Iraq before the U.S.-led war in March.
"They're [U.S. military] going after these foreign terrorists and
finding them," White House spokesman Scott McClellan said on Monday. "And
they will continue to do that and defeat them wherever they may be."
Kurdish sources in northern Iraq said Ansar Islam has infiltrated the
cities of Kirkuk and Suleimaniya. They said the Ansar operatives have been
inciting residents of those cities to attack U.S. troops.
"What I think they're [Al Qaida] attempting to do is to make Iraq into
the 21st century version of what Afghanistan was," Bruce Hoffman, vice
president for external affairs at the Washington-based Rand Corp. and a
consultant on terrorism, said. "In other words, a rallying cry, a place
where foreign fighters are supposed to come to defend Islam, that now is not
the time to operate."